Kids will be kids

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Southeast's intramural sports concentrates on the playground

On this Tuesday afternoon the sky is gray, the field is muddy, and for the members of Gulliver's Run, there are no opponents.

But they don't care. They'll play anyway. The seven college students who make up the team split into two groups of three while team member Miles Maynes pitches -- if you call rolling a fat ball over home plate pitching.

The team is supposed to be facing a challenger in Southeast Missouri State University's intramural sports kickball tournament. The challengers didn't show, and Gulliver's Run won by forfeit.

They could have gone back to their dorms to drink beer, scheme on chicks or play videogames. Instead they're having fun kicking a ball around and trying to get a reluctant writer to join their team.

Why do they do it?

"Because kickball's f***ing awesome!" yells team member Troy Martin.

Yes, Troy, kickball is f***ing awesome.

Intramural sports have been around for as long as colleges and universities have. After all, everyone can't make the football, basketball, baseball or whatever team, so what else are the rest of us less-athletic folk supposed to do for exercise?

But where intramural sports used to focus on more traditional sports, now more and more students are taking to the field for playground games like kickball and dodgeball, or picking up the controller for Madden tournaments.

"What we're seeing, not just here but nationally, is that a lot of people want to do those events of their heyday when they were growing up," said Tory Vaughn, recreation services director at Southeast. "Kickball is really popular right now, there's a notion of tetherball after 'Napoleon Dynamite,' there's dodgeball: it's just a lot of these, what we call, playground activities."

And don't forget activities like washers, either. The games have been around forever, but this trend is fairly new, says Vaughn.

"Within the past three or four years it's starting to come on, because people right now are tending to break away from those team sports we all grew up with," Vaughn says. "They want more individualized attention. They don't want their team to be that large."

Gulliver's Run -- seven guys.

But sometimes the "intramural sports" that are popular are not sports at all. This semester Southeast will host tournaments in Texas Hold 'Em and Madden football.

With those sit-on-your-butt activities, Vaughn said there is a concern that intramural sports are being pushed away from their mission.

"People are wanting more passive activities where they don't have to run -- they don't have to run and they don't want to sweat," says Vaughn.

No wonder America's waistline keeps getting bigger and bigger.

But for the guys of Gulliver's Run, the fun is in the exercise.

"It's fun," says Mike Haupt while he waits for a kick at third base. "I play pretty much any sport that requires running."

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